An article in the Church Times gives a synopsis of the recent Conference on Anglicanorum coetibus, held at Pusey House in Oxford. After listening to the presentations and the questions which followed, I would say that the article is an accurate account of the proceedings.
Anglican aspect of life in Ordinariate questioned
by Bill Bowder
DOUBTS have been raised about whether former Church of England clerics would have distinctive “transferrable skills” to bring to the Roman Catholic Church, if they ceased to be part of the Anglican Communion.
At a meeting on Saturday at Pusey House in Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker SSC, Principal of Pusey House, said that a group was gathering to reflect on what was the “distinct tradition” within the Anglican Church, fostered since the Reformation, which was “potentially capable of finding its way to enrich the life of the wider Catholic Church”.
Under the norms of Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum Coetibus, clergy trained in seminaries in the proposed Ordinariate (News, 23 October) would be tutored in “those aspects of Anglican patrimony that are of particular value” to the RC Church.
One speaker, Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge, and an Irish Roman Catholic, asked what “transferrable skills” Anglicans would bring. He said that what was distinctive was that they had been “shaped” by the Royal Supremacy, which had had a “moderating impact” on the differences in the Church of England between Catholics and Protestants.
“A fundamental part of the nature, identity, and patrimony of Anglicanism comes from the enforced co-existence of the Catholic dimension of Anglicanism within other more Protestant streams within an establishment,” Professor Duffy said. There would be “big problems imagining how it would retain its coherence and Anglican identity outside those constraints. . . Could choral evensong survive in a minority uniate Church . . . within Roman Catholicism?”
Canon Robin Ward, the Principal of St Stephen’s House, said that the Pope, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, had seen in Anglicanism “a significant Catholic potential — a self-renewing Catholic principle”. Part of the Pope’s motivation in Anglicanorum Coetibus was to find a “juridical and theological way” in which this worthwhile distinctiveness could make a contribution to the greater communion of the catholica.
Anglican moral theology within an Ordinariate would not provide different answers to contested questions (such as contraception, divorce, and homosexuality), but it could bring “the virtue of religion”, the way in which, in Anglicanism, worship, piety, and external religion were formed into a national “sacral landscape”. Anglicans could demonstrate that “a moral ethic based on custom does not mean disorder”.
The Revd Philip North, Team Rector of Old St Pancras, London, warned that the opportunities for mission would be reduced because “we have the furniture of the Church of England,” which occupied a legal and cultural role. This was part of the nation’s self-understanding, responsible for whole communities. “Is that patrimony importable?” he asked.
Clergy in the Ordinariate would have to be in secular employment because the Roman Catholic Church could not raise the money — £64,000 in his case in London — to keep them in a house and stipend. Fr North said that the Ordinariate could become irrelevant: “If we reach a point where staying is not an option, then traditional conversion is far more likely to offer the kind of enrichment and ministry that we know now.”
There’s no doubt that the speakers are all distinguished men – fine scholars, faithful priests, all respected for their work and certainly men of faith. I think, also, that their assessment of the situation is quite accurate. And to me, that’s a disappointment.
Most of us thought that an Ordinariate in England would be among the first to be established. Now I’m not so sure. This is just my personal opinion, mind you, but after listening to what the speakers had to say at the Conference, it seems pretty clear that most of the Anglo-catholics there are collectively scratching their heads, wondering what Pope Benedict saw, that would ever make him think there was such a thing as an Anglican patrimony to bring into the Catholic Church. And in the case of England, they may have something of a point.
When I was a young Anglican curate back in the mid-1970’s, I was serving in a moderately catholic parish, St. Stephen Southmead in Bristol. As I recall, we were using some sort of Alternative Service Book, with something called “Series 2” and “Series 3,” or some such thing. On the first Sunday of the month we used the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I was blissfully unaware of what was going on in the more “advanced” catholic parishes. They had simply gone over to the Missal of Paul VI, as well as the Roman Breviary. In so doing, the Anglo-catholics/Anglo-papists had cut their ties with all forms of Anglican worship, although they continued to be part of the Church of England, and their parishes were the lawful parishes for their respective territories. This explains to me why some of the speakers at the Pusey House Conference would refer mostly to buildings and territorial parishes. In fact, one of the presenters, Fr. Philip North, told a story which everyone thought quite amusing, recounting his one attempt to celebrate the Holy Eucharist using the Book of Common Prayer. A life-long Anglican, he’d never used it before, and he described how he “ran out of breath” as he was trying to get the unfamiliar words out.
No wonder they’re mystified as they try to figure out what Anglican patrimony might be.
Now, I’m the first one to agree that our patrimony can’t be defined in a precise way. But I do know that a big part of it is defined by how we worship and the words we use in that worship. Without some form of the Book of Common Prayer, it’s pretty tough to preserve anything resembling our Anglican patrimony. What we heard from Pusey House confirms that fact.
I have no idea what will happen in England regarding an Ordinariate. Perhaps a number of Anglo-catholics will rediscover some of their Prayer Book heritage and decide they want to return to a recognizably Anglican form of worship. They may discover that having personal parishes rather than territorial parishes actually can open up new aspects of ministry, never explored before. They may discover that there's more to it than just "the furniture" (as Fr. North referenced).
All I have left to say is this: I hope – really, really hope – they’ll give an Ordinariate a chance to work, and not simply be absorbed, as was strongly suggested at the Conference. After all, the Holy Father saw something he thought was worthy of being nurtured and shared with the whole Church. If he saw something, I would hope that the Anglo-catholics in England will at least have a look for it themselves.
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